BAMAKO (Dispatches) – Mali’s constitutional court has named Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of the post-coup junta, as the country’s transitional president.
The judgment stipulated that Goita would “exercise the functions of transitional president to lead the transition process to its conclusion”, following his seizure of power this week.
The constitutional court said it had made the decision due to the “vacancy in the presidency” following the resignation of caretaker president Bah Ndaw.
Soldiers detained Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane on Monday, before releasing them Thursday after they resigned.
But the twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar -- and marked the second apparent coup within a year in the unstable country.
Ndaw and Ouane had led a transitional government tasked with steering the return to civilian rule after a coup last August that toppled Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Keita was forced out by young army officers, led by Goita, following mass protests over perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody insurgency.
The court ruling set Mali on a collision course with the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has insisted that the transition, which is due to end with elections in February, remain civilian-led.
After agreeing in October to lift sanctions imposed after the coup against Keita, ECOWAS said in a declaration that the vice president of the transition “cannot under any circumstances replace the president.”
ECOWAS heads of state fear the political crisis could exacerbate instability in northern and central Mali, a home base for regional affiliates of al-Qaeda and Daesh.
Goita, a 38-year-old special forces commander, was one of several colonels who led the coup against Keita. He ousted Ndaw after the interim president named a new cabinet that stripped two of the other coup leaders of their ministerial posts.
Late on Friday, Goita said on national television that he would name a new prime minister from among the members of the M5-RFP coalition, which led protests against Keita last year and fell out with Ndaw and Ouane during the transition.